Baghdad Hits Crisis Point Amid IS Threat

There is “immense fear among everybody” in Baghdad with some too frightened to leave their homes due to the threat from Islamic State, according to a vicar in the city.

Canon Andrew White spoke to Sky News as IS militants were reportedly only a mile away from the capital amid clashes with Iraqi soldiers.

There has also been renewed fighting in the central cities of Baquba and Ramadi.

And in Syria despite the recent coalition airstrikes, fighters from IS, also known as ISIS, are thought to be within three miles of the strategic border town of Kobani.

Canon White, the vicar of St George’s Church – the only Anglican church in Iraq – said civilians were being killed by coalition air raids in Iraq.

He said: “I’ve never known the city like it is at the moment.
Canon Andrew White warned of a ‘crisis point’ in Baghdad

“Streets which are usually choc-a-bloc with traffic, cars and people are almost empty. People are too fearful to even leave their homes.

“We are at a crisis point. People know ISIS are coming nearer. People are being killed by the (air) attacks of the coalition.”

He said of the Islamic State advance: “This is horrendous. We have civilians being killed yet IS are moving towards Baghdad.”

He said soon the militants would be on Baghdad’s doorstep and entering the capital.

In an earlier Facebook post he wrote: “Over 1,000 Iraqi troops were killed by ISIS yesterday (Sunday), things are so bad.
“All the military airstrikes are doing nothing. If ever we needed your prayer it is now.”

He also told Sky’s Adam Boulton that his church would be “very high up” on the extremist group’s target list and “I must be at the top of the list”.

Islamic State has in recent months taken over large parts of northern Iraq.
The vicar said one soldier told him if he was confronted by IS he would “take off his uniform and run” and was in the army “because he needs the money”.

Canon White went on: “This sadly is the kind of attitude of so many of these forces who should be coming to our aid and help.”

His work is supported by the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which said on Facebook: “The Islamic State are now less than 2km away from entering Baghdad.
“They said it could never happen and now it almost has. Obama says he overestimated what the Iraqi army could do.

“Well you only need to be here a very short while to know they can do very very little.”

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iCloud Is Down For Some

TechCrunch

It seems Apple’s iCloud woes are not over. The service is down for some users including myself. It’s unreachable from iCloud.com and files and emails are failing to sync. Apple’s System Status page reports iCloud and the rest of Apple’s online service as operating normally when iCloud is very clearly not accessible for some.

This comes weeks after hackers accessed celebrity iCloud accounts, pilfering personal files and photos.

Earlier today more bad iCloud news piled on Apple. Some users discovered that when the “Reset all settings” option was selected in iOS 8, all the iWork documents stored in iCloud vanished despite the option explicitly stating that “no data or media will be deleted.” When MacRumors confirmed this claim, they discovered that using the bug also removed files on all Apple devices connected to the iCloud account.

As for now, while iCloud is down for some, hopefully no one loses their…

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Facebook’s new ad platform……

Today is the first day of Advertising Week, and this year’s confab is already buzzing over what will almost certainly be the week’s big news: the long-awaited relaunch of Facebook’s new ad platform, called Atlas.

The basic gist of Atlas is this: It’s a tool that allows advertisers to show ads to Facebook users, targeting them using information they’ve posted to Facebook, on sites and apps that aren’t necessarily Facebook-related. An example of how Atlas will work, according to the Times: “if PepsiCo … wanted to reach college age men with ads for its Mountain Dew Baja Blast, it could use Atlas to identify several million of those potential customers and show each of them a dozen ads for the soft drink on game apps, sports and video sites.”

Why is this important? Because, for years, Google has had a lock on these kinds of targeted marketing efforts through its ad-tech platform, DoubleClick. DoubleClick handles the vast majority of these campaigns right now, which means that if you saw an ad for Pampers on a site after searching for “how to prevent diaper rash,” the site that sold that ad space probably did it through Google, and used Google’s troves of data to target users who had recently searched for information about diapers. Now Facebook wants to one-up Google by giving corporations a more precise way to target users and follow them across the internet to see what they’re clicking and buying.

Slice through the jargon, and it appears that the notable things about Facebook’s Atlas are:

A better way to target users on mobile devices, no matter which apps they’re using. DoubleClick works by placing cookies on sites within Google’s ad network, and using those cookies to track user behavior and make sure they’re seeing relevant ads. The cookie system has powered internet advertising for more than a decade. But cookies don’t work well on mobile devices, which gives Facebook an opening. Instead of cookies, Atlas uses Facebook’s Connect infrastructure to track users across their devices. (In other words, if you use your Facebook credentials to log in to an app like Uber, Facebook will know what you’re doing on Uber, and can sell that data to advertisers, even if you’ve never posted about Uber on Facebook.) This kind of cross-device tracking ability is a goldmine for advertisers.

“People spend more time on mobile than on desktop, but marketers don’t spend there because cookies don’t work,” an ad executive told The Wall Street Journal. “This could finally enable us to spend more money in mobile.”

A better way for companies to tell if their ads are working. This is part of what’s known as the “attribution” problem within the ad world. When John Doe sees a J.Crew ad on Instagram and buys a J.Crew sweater at the mall a day later, there’s no way for J.Crew to know that those two events were connected. Except now, with Atlas, Facebook says it could tell J.Crew that the Facebook account associated with John’s email address had been shown a J.Crew ad on Instagram just a day before he went to the mall. J.Crew would then know that its ad strategy had paid off, and Atlas would get “attribution” for John’s purchase. And that would make Atlas very, very valuable, both for J.Crew and for Facebook itself.

The ability to improve the ads on your Facebook feed. As Re/code’s Peter Kafka says, one benefit of Atlas could be indirectly helping Facebook improve the precision of the ads it shows its own users. “If Facebook can convince more publishers to let it into their ad business, it’s ultimately going to glean information that will makes its own ads, on its own properties, much more powerful,” Kafka says.

A way to keep Facebook feeds from getting even more cluttered with ads. Facebook has long had a core dilemma: the way it makes money is by selling space on users’ profiles to advertisers. But when it shoves too many ads into users’ news feeds, they get annoyed and spend less time on Facebook, making those ads less valuable. The solution Atlas could provide is giving Facebook a chance to handle more ads without actually showing those ads on Facebook. In AdAge’s words:

Facebook doesn’t want to overwhelm users with ads, but it also doesn’t want to turn away advertisers to the point that they take their budgets elsewhere. So if Facebook the business wants advertisers’ money but Facebook the social network doesn’t want their ads, Facebook the company needs to find somewhere else to stick them.

With Atlas, in other words, Facebook can take J.Crew’s money and use it to purchase ads on a non-Facebook site or app, while keeping a chunk for itself, without diluting its users’ core Facebook experience. How nice!

As with almost all innovations within the online-advertising world, Facebook Atlas is sure to provoke fear among privacy worrywarts. (Among other things, users will now be tracked by Facebook for the purposes of selling ads on third-party sites even when they’re not using Facebook itself. Facebook’s preemptive defense is that it won’t collect and distribute data on individual users to advertisers, just aggregated and anonymized cross-sections.) But really, this is just Facebook catching up to what Google has been doing for years. And anyway, it’s less creepy than Beacon.

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Facebook Ads Will Now Follow You No Matter What Device You’re Using

In January, Facebook took its first steps in this direction launching a network that could serve up ads within mobile apps. But the launch of Atlas symbolizes a deeper commitment to controlling the web’s ads—and an even fiercer fight with Google for that control.

Atlas is not a new platform, per se. Facebook acquired the product from Microsoft last year. But according to a blog post from Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, the team has rebuilt the platform “from the ground up” in the hopes of making it easier for advertisers to follow a consumer, regardless of what type of device she’s using.

In an apparent dig at Google, Johnson writes that the method advertisers have traditionally used to track consumers—cookies—is flawed, because consumers are no longer using one device at all times. “Cookies don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world,” Johnson writes. He offers “people-based marketing,” that is, marketing based on Facebook’s data, as the solution. It can not only track users between devices, but it can also connect online campaigns to offline sales to determine how effective a given campaign really was.

In the announcement, Facebook said it had already signed a contract with Omnicom to begin serving advertisements for brands like Pepsi and Intel. Instagram, which of course, is owned by Facebook, is also enabled with Atlas. The company noted in its announcement that advertisers who buy ads on Facebook, Atlas, and Instagram will be able to easily compare the results.

It’s worth noting that even Google has been interested in this people-centric strategy. That was likely the thinking behind the launch of Google+, Google’s own social network. If Google+ had been a true success the personal data it offered would have bolstered Google’s search data to perfect its ads. But, Google+ wasn’t the hit Google had hoped for, primarily because it felt like an also-ran candidate to Facebook.

Facebook is different; it’s already some hybrid of social network and advertising platform. With Atlas, Facebook stands a much better chance of beating Google at its own game.

Of course, this new advertising initiative is not likely to please any of Facebook’s already privacy conscious users. Backlash against Facebook’s existing data collection policies is what has been recently fueling the growth of Ello, a Facebook competitor that vows never to sell user data. The more partners Facebook has within its ad network, the more data it will have at its fingertips.

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